Playa del Carmen is the place to go on the Yucatán peninsula. This former fishing village has become a tourist Mecca and is one of the hottest and most popular destinations in Mexico, especially for cruise ship visitors.
Whether you’re on a day trip with a cruise, or there for a few days there are so many things to do in Playa del Carmen that you’ll want to come back again and again.
When it comes to planning your list of things to do in Playa del Carmen, consider whether you want to experience culture, adventure, shopping and atmosphere or just soak up the sun.
When it comes to cultural things to do in Playa del Carmen, you’re spoilt for choice with the nearby Mayan ruins. Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba and Ek-Balam all stand out as fantastic places to visit. Chichen Itza was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and is one of the most famous and popular archaeological sites in Mexico. It has UNESCO world heritage status and is absolutely unique. It was one of the largest Mayan cities pre-Columbus, and is almost certainly one of the mythical great cities or Tollans referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. It was a melting pot of culture, and this is reflected in the widely differing architectural styles found at the site.
In contrast, Ek-Balam is almost unknown, while it was found in the 1800’s, it was only in the 1980’s that this site was actually mapped and excavations began, which makes these ruins both less popular with other tourists but as excavations are still ongoing at the site you can actually see them being uncovered and get in amongst the ruins.
Tulum is on the coast, and it’s main attraction other than being a Mayan coastal town which was a major port until nearly 70 years after the Spanish arrived, is that a trip to Tulum can be easily combined with the best sea based things to do in Playa del Carmen, including Xel-Ha, the world’s largest natural aquarium where you can snorkel with tropical fish, swimming with dolphins and whale sharks and just relaxing on the amazing beaches.
There’s also Xcaret, an eco theme park that is sure to be a hit with all the family, and for the more adventurous the underground tunnels and caverns of the Riveria Maya are a stunning natural wonder that can be relatively easily explored with experienced local guides and equipment for hire to navigate the underground river to the amazing caverns. There are also plenty of opportunities to go jungle exploring, if you think there might still be more ruins and treasure out there for you to find.
If you fancy a bit of shopping, or just want to spend your time in the local bars, restaurants and cafes and soak up the atmosphere then Quinta Avienda or Fifth Avenue is the place to be. This is the centre of the tourist district, and is packed with boutique shops and atmospheric eateries.